North of the Taunus and on Hesse’s western border, the River Lahn – a tributary of the Rhine – meanders its way through a placid landscape of gentle upland beauty, threaded with historic and interesting small towns. The Lahntalradweg cycle route ensures the valley is deservedly popular with cyclists, and many hotels proclaim their cycle-friendliness, while the Lahn’s waters are popular with canoeists. But the valley can be explored just as easily by car or train. Highlights along the way include the delightful small cathedral cities of Limburg an der Lahn and Wetzlar, and the diminutive but pristine Residenzstadt of Weilburg.
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Limburg an der Lahn
Limburg an der Lahn
Perched on a crag overlooking the River Lahn in full view of traffic speeding along the Frankfurt–Cologne Autobahn, LIMBURG’s impeccably picturesque Dom acts as a sort of billboard-in-stone for the charms of this beguiling little city, for though the attention-grabbing cathedral is undeniably Limburg’s major draw, tucked behind it is a half-timbered Altstadt of modest size but considerable age and beauty. Deservedly popular with day-trippers, Limburg is also an inviting spot for an overnight stay.
Even the landscape genuflects to the feudal authority of WEILBURG’s Schloss, for the River Lahn loops so tightly around the immaculate little town that its Altstadt is almost an island, with the massive Schloss as its heart. Its extraordinary setting aside, Weilburg’s other great curiosity is the Schiffstunnel, a short-cut through the neck of the meander behind the Altstadt, cut between 1844 and 1847 and unique in Germany. You can take a boat trip through it in the summer months – the tourist office has details.
WETZLAR was once a place of some importance. In the mid-fourteenth century it rivalled Frankfurt in size, while from 1693 until its dissolution in 1806 it was the seat of the Reichskammergericht, the highest court of the Holy Roman Empire. This drew Goethe, who came here in 1772 as a legal trainee and it was here he developed an attachment to Lotte Buff, who was to inspire the character of Lotte in The Sorrows of Young Werther.